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Six Rules for Better Conflict Management

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Posted 21 October 2014 by Chris FarmerChris Farmer

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You may find the following will help with the training of your team leaders and managers.

Six Rules for Better Conflict Management

Are you looking for some ideas on how to better handle conflict and difficult people? If so, I have some good points for you.

Over the last ten years, I have taught these ideas to thousands of people who find themselves in conflict situations similar to yours, and over the years, the feedback has always been excellent.

I split the subject of conflict management into two main parts.

Part one: handling conflict behaviours

This means focussing on techniques for handling difficult behaviours and conflict situations.

Part two: Preventing conflict by improved communication up stream

This means focusing on trying to prevent conflict from occurring in the first place by emphasising improved communication skills; the premise being that many conflicts are caused by an earlier miscommunication or misunderstanding.
If we can improve the clarity of our earlier communications, then we can avoid misunderstandings, and therefore the later conflict never arises.
Here is a breakdown of the ideas for the first set, (handling conflict behaviours) in more detail:

Here are six of the best rules for better conflict management

Here is the basic plan:
Consider the following six points and put into practice what you can.

Handling conflict behaviour

Always use a rational-logical approach to handling conflict:
Do NOT use an emotional approach, (meaning, don't use your anger and don't get too upset and tearful.)
And don't try to avoid all conflicts, hoping that if you ignore the situation it will improve on its own.

Rule one: When in conflict, try to be rational logical.

Not angry.
Not tearful.
Don't run away and to try hide from the conflict situation.

Rule Two: Always protect the others self-concept as you correct their behaviour

Never attack their character: keep your conversation on their behaviour, NOT their character.

Rule three: When in conflict use only objective, factual language

Do NOT use highly charged and emotionalised or opinionated language.
Distinguish between factual objective language and emotionalised, subjective language.
For example: Consider the following script:

"You parked your car in the disabled parking bay.
That is so rude and selfish. You make me so mad when you do such stupid things.
Would you please, now move your car; and park it in the regular spot. And please never repeat this mistake".

The bold language is the objective good-use of language.
The words printed in italics are the dangerous subjective language.
"That is so rude and selfish. You make me so mad when you do such stupid things".
This language is dangerous language because it is almost guaranteed to trigger a negative emotional response in the listener.
Can you see that?

Rule four: When in conflict distinguish between a "reason" and an "excuse" for not doing something

A reasonable-excuse is a contradiction in terms.
Exercise:
Define: what is "A Reason":
Define: what is "an excuse". Have a different policy for each.

Rule five: Know when it is RIGHT to compromise and when it is NOT right to compromise

Know when to stand firm and when not to.
If the person is giving you reasons why he cannot do what you want, then you should compromise and find a middle ground solution.
But if he is not giving you a reason, if he is giving you only an excuse, if he is giving you a NON reason, then you should NOT compromise.
You should stand firm and not give any ground.
Don't give concessions to people who give you only excuses, not reasons.

Rule six: Always use positive praise to reinforce good changes in behaviour

The moment the person makes a move towards your desired, "target behaviour" then immediately positively reinforce the change with the timely use of a few-well chosen, kind words.
If you were training a performing seal to do tricks, then you would have to throw him a bit of fish every time the seal does something good.
And you would throw him fish every time the seal did anything even approaching a good behaviour. Animal trainers call this process, "Behaviour modification by means of positive reinforcement".

"Behaviour modification by means of positive reinforcement"

Is the process of rewarding positive behaviours immediately with some kind of small reward. Animal trainers use bits of fish as a positive reward. They throw bits of fish to the animal.
I don't recommend that you throw bits of fish at your boss or your partner. (It will modify their behaviours very quickly, but not in the way we want.)
No.
I recommend that, instead of fish, you dish out kind words.

Dish out kind words as a form of positive reinforcement of any good behaviour.

Any behaviour, (or any approximation towards a good behaviour), should be, immediately, rewarded by you, with a few well-crafted and expertly timed, kind words.
Would THAT be a good thing to get good at?
Yes.
Get into the habit of dishing out a few well-crafted and expertly timed, kind words, as a form of positive reinforcement, to reward and therefore, encourage any good behaviour.

Summary of six of the best golden rules for conflict management

Memorise them now and apply them later.

Rule One is: When in conflict, try to be rational logical.
Rule Two: Always protect the others self-concept as you correct their poor behaviour.
Rule three: When in conflict use only objective, factual language:
Do NOT use highly emotionalised or opinionated language.
Rule four: A "reasonable-excuse" is a contradiction in terms.
So, when in conflict situations, distinguish between a "reason", and an "excuse", for not doing something.
Rule five: Know when it is RIGHT to compromise and when it is NOT right to compromise.
Know when to stand firm and when not to.

  • Compromise on hearing a reason.
  • Don't compromise on hearing an excuse.

Rule six: Always use positive praise, (kind words) to reinforce good changes in behaviour.

Conflict Management

Conflict Management Training

Conflict is inevitable, because people disagree. Therefore, you must be able to handle conflict situations effectively. You must know how to be assertive, clear and professional (not emotional, upset and angry) whilst in conflict. If you want to learn more on how to achieve this, please click here to see our conflict management training.

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